I’m Heather McElhatton and This is A beautiful World. This week we learn about nature inspiring artistic genius and the beauty of communing with the wild from author Lyanda Lynn Haupt, (LIE-anda Lynn Hoe-pt) and her book ‘Mozart’s Starling”
Haupt: I was fascinated by the story that Mozart had as a pet, a starling.
HEM: The starling – or Sturnus Vulgaris, was introduced to America in 1890, when sixty birds were released in Central Park in New York City.
(SOUND OF STARLINGS)
Haupt: The dissonance there is wonderful, because here we have one of our most sublime western classical composers, who had not just as a companion, but as an actual muse, this bird the european starling, that is an invasive bird in North America and safe to say the most hated bird in all of the country by conservationists, agriculturists, bird watchers and even nature writers like me.
HEM: Haupt was captivated by the story of a beloved composer loving a reviled bird – and she did some intensive research to capture the story.
Haupt: … He recorded two things about the starling, one that it imitated the motif of a beautiful concerto he just completed and the second one was that he paid a few Kreuzer for it and bought it and took it home. So we know from his own notebook that he had this starling.
HEM: Starlings are highly social and verbal. Known to be excellent mimics. Mozart was delighted by the starlings ability to mimic and alter his compositions. He recorded the birds changes in his journal. Here is Mozart’s rendition of a piano concerto.
(SOUND OF MOZART’S CONCERTO )
HEM: and now the starlings changes…
(SOUND OF STARLINGS RENDITION)
HEM: Haupt has no doubt the starling had a profound effect on Mozart. He wrote music for the bird, composed poems and held a formal funeral for the starling when it died. She knows what a profound effect a starling can have on a household first-hand… because Haupt went one step further when researching Mozart’s starling – she adopted a starling herself.
Haupt: ..so I basically grabbed this little bird on the way to the city park dustbin, she was only five days old, she looked terrible and I thought she was going to die. But I hovered over her and cared for her and she grew into this healthy flourishing bird who really did help me flesh out the story and how it was for Mozart to live with a starling.
HEM: Haupt named her starling Carmen, and they still live together to this day. She says the bird’s taught the family a lot – about music, life and navigating the world together. When large numbers of starlings fly together its called a murmuration = they form these impossibly complex shapes as thousands of birds fly together in perfect harmony and perfect unison. Until recently, researchers had little clue how so many birds flew together without crashing into each other. and the answer, it turns out, is SEVEN STARLINGS.
Haupt: …each starling is paying attention to the seven starlings next to it, and that movement scales through the flock rapidly. The metaphor is we are living in a mystifying political time and so many people are saying what do I do? and i go back to that science of murmurations, and think we all each of us have our version of the 7 starlings closest to us. Whether its our family or co workers or co-activists or whatever it is and we can all bring our own gifts with a sense of gratitude joy and peace and Maybe those actions ripple out in ways we could not have imagined.
HEM: Find out more about Mozart’s Starling at www.abeautiful.world I’m HEM and this is ABW.
…brought to you with help from the Pohlad family foundation.